Bénévent L’Abbaye -> Guéret – 60kms
After a fantastic nights sleep on the floor of a gymnasium with hundreds of other cyclists I’m ready for stage 2. No, really, I slept like a baby. With fresh kit on, bike cleaned and lubed, i’m turning my legs over in the car park waiting to start. Results wise i’m sitting in 3rd master B (that’s 40yrs and over) despite losing places in the last few kms yesterday. I don’t really want to pressure myself, and my legs do feel a little tired, but the early morning sun feels good, and maybe I could make the podium. A good solid ride is called for, concentration, efficiency, economy, and fingers crossed.
Right on time they motor us all through town. Next we’re called to the start line in order of yesterdays finish. Five minutes later we’re on our way. Ten minutes later I’m going daft hard trying to establish myself in a fast group. Fifteen minutes later I’m in a group containing Johnathan Cormier, he’s a rider i’ve raced with before, he’s a hard worker, he placed 11th on day one. If I can stick with this group I’ll be OK.
Last year day two was the toughest, and this year is the same. In places the terrain is brutal, extreme, beautiful, fast, flowing, and all points in between. After mud filled tractor ruts, and river crossings too deep to ride we are rewarded with fabulous singletrack descents that go on and on. The carpets of spring flowers and the stunning beauty of the countryside are a distraction. Must stick to the task.
Two and a half hours done, i’ve been yo-yo-ing off the back of the group and now I’m dropped, riding alone, with little twinges of cramp coming on. I’m expecting just over three hours today, and I know that the last few kms are mostly downhill. At last I can see Guéret well below us through a gap in the trees. Diving downwards in the twisty singletrack I spot a sign – “Labrynthé”, and it really feels like riding one. Twists, turns, rocks, roots, racing downhill, a couple of mistakes, but I’m still upright, and then I’n not. I catch an edge and slide out on a corner. Nothing serious, but trying to unclip and get the bike off my legs cramp. Ouch!
I remount, and after another 500m drop out onto a smooth super fast road. Downwards again, I remember this bit from last year, another 5mins and I’ll be home. Just before I turn off the tarmac I look behind me. In the distance I can see two riders chasing, I don’t think they’re gonna catch me. It’s the last climb, the sting in the tail, I’m halfway up when the chasers are at the bottom. I’m giving my all, and bang, cramp! It ain’t gonna let go, I’m off and running, they catch me, they pass me. 🙁
Into the finish in 3:20:10.18 for 19th place, and 5th master 2. That, was, hard!
With two puncture under his belt Pricer comes home in 33rd place. He looks exhausted, and spends most of the afternoon fast asleep. What you have to know with Pricer is that this is only his first season racing XC after a nasty crash last year put an end to his Downhill racing. He’s young, and skillful, but lacking in experience. I know he’s put in months of traning for this event, and I know he’d like to beat the old bugger (me), but I can’t slow down can I?
Meanwhile Supawal snapped his seatpost just after the first Ravitalment and had to retire. He’s dissapointed. However, there’s a neutral race mechanic expected at the overnight stop late afternoon, he might have a spare one, and if he hasn’t then Keith Bontrager (yes the real KB!) has offered to lend him one. Despite the disappointment of snapping his post Supawal tells me about the camaraderie of the French riders who stopped to make sure he was OK and wouldn’t leave him until he’d been rescued. Chapeau guys! 🙂
Great write up of stage 1 and 2 – cant wait to read stage three and know the final result!